It appears that many countries are settling into a form of government that mixes a substantial degree of democracy with a substantial degree of illiberalism (Zakaria: 1997). Just like what Egypt and Tunisia are portraying to us. From authoritarian rule, they moved forward to become a democratic country and perceived a concept of democratic space. They are both in the path of a transitional democracy. They inhabit the wide and foggy zone between liberal democracy and closed authoritarianism.
This comparative analysis will elaborate three major points in the prospect of democracy for Egypt and Tunisia. (1) The qualifications for a democratic space, (2) The role of Internal and External actors for their democratization and (3) The role of civil society, military and technology in the political and social change in the two countries. According to republikein. com, the concept of democratic space is inconceivable in the absence of deliberative citizens and the different ways in which they mediate their pluralistic interests.
It is also inconceivable in the absence of democratic power. In this sense the democratic power is equated to “power to” meaning the power becomes a resource that empowers and wakes the potential of the human person and of society. On the other hand, undemocratic power is “power over” almost at any cost. It is about control, domination and hegemony and operates outside the provisions of democratic politics. It advances the “grand narrative” of those who exercise and abuse power. So let’s compare what is the reason why these two countries move forward to become a democratic country.
According to orpheusfx. blogspot. com, the Tunisian uprising began when Mohammed Bouazizi—a college graduate eking out a living selling vegetables whose unlicensed cart was confiscated by the police—set himself on fire, an act of desperation that inspired the country’s thousands of unemployed graduates to take to the streets in protest while the Egyptian revolution began when Khaled Said–a 28-year-old businessman. He was sitting in a cybercafe in Alexandria, when the police came in and demanded everyone’s papers.
He asked the officers why and soon after he laid dead, his face smashed against the staircase of a nearby building, his cries for help unanswered because any attempt to meddle in a police matter would automatically result in arrest and torture. Over the following weeks, young Egyptians staged protests demanding justice for this man, protests that were repressed by President Mubarak’s police thugs. As you can observe, there are citizens who protest against their government because their human rights and other rights are wholly repressed.
There is a democratic space when deliberative citizens are present and they expressed or voiced out their pluralistic interest or agony against the government. Power is not only obvious in domination, but inheres in all relationships such that ‘any interpretation of reality is itself a manifestation of power, and that those who are relatively powerless still participate in power’ (Yeatman, 1997:147). Also there is democratic space when there is an existing democratic power. In the case of Egypt and Tunisia, because our society today is in a digital age, the democratic power shifts on the Internet.
According to Harvard. du. com, the Internet allows people to communicate their interests to a broad audience and, as a result of that communication, to form interest groups that pool resources which allow the individuals in those groups to exert power on political decision-makers. And I guess because of globalization- a process that renders various activities and aspirations “worldwide in scope or application” or simply the opening of the world, the flow and control of mass information became uncontrollable. As a result the democratizing forces increase the political power of the citizens when they are using the Internet.
Low-cost digital tools like Facebook, Youtube, Twitter and blogs have been used to unite people globally around a cause, increase awareness of civil rights abuse, and share information about social justice campaigns. According to Rafat Ali, a social media expert and founder of PaidContent, said that Facebook and Twitter played different roles in the uprising. Facebook helped to organize the activists inside the country while Twitter functioned to help get the message out to the broader world. Ali added that, Facebook definitely had a role in organizing this revolution.
It acts like an accelerant to conditions which already exist in the country. Twitter and YouTube serve as amplification for what’s happening on the ground. And they directly affect Western media coverage. The problem with today’s digital age is that most information or things happening in a specific state or country are being broadcasted outside the control of even the most coercive governments. In accordance with tnr. com, the current revolution is based on rapid technological advances that have dramatically decreased the cost of creating, finding and transmitting information.
As computing power has become cheaper and computers have shrunk to the size of smart phones and other portable devices, their decentralizing effects have been dramatic. Power over information is much more widely distributed today than even a few decades ago. If you had noticed the Egyptian and Tunisian demonstrators, work around their governments’ efforts to shut down access to the internet, text messaging, and television. The speed of Internet time means all governments have less control of their agendas.
The spread of information means that power will be more widely distributed, and informal networks will undercut the monopoly of traditional system of government. The second part of this comparative analysis will determine the role of internal and external actors to the democratization of Egypt and Tunisia. According to Morlino, democratization means both the transition from non- democratic political regime, in particular authoritarian ones, to different democratic regimes, and eventually following processes of instauration, consolidation, and crisis or growing of democratic quality.
Democratization is an open process and the result of the interaction of internal and external factors. We can consider that the internal actors who participate in Egyptian and Tunisian Revolution are the people or citizens of those countries. The journalists, regional analysts, youth activists and the government itself are the internal actors of those countries. Their role in the democratization of their countries was that, they were the ones who called and acted for change. They were the ones who pursued freedom from authoritarian rule and gave way to a new form of government which is democracy.
They hold the key to turning the volume of an external actor’s pressure up or down. Now, let’s examine the role of external actors for their democratization. External actors provide material support and technical assistance to a range of institutions and actors and, by supporting NGOS committed to democratic norms, foreign donors help ‘change the balance of power within domestic politics in favor of democrats (McFaul, 2004-5, p. 156). Example of External actors that we can relate to the democratization of Egypt and Tunisia are the European Union (EU) and United States (US).
According to Marina Ottaway, the Director of the Middle East Program, the role of external actors in democratic transitions is at best a supportive one. It can never be the central role—countries do not democratize because outsiders will them to do so, or impose conditionalities until they do so. In some cases, the role of external actors can be extremely damaging—for example if they force changes that are not supported by domestic political forces and for which conditions are not ripe—any reform, introduced prematurely, can be very damaging.
An example is the Bosnian elections. She also added that the roles of Europe and the US in the Middle East are very different because of the fundamental differences between US and European foreign policies and the specific assets they bring to the Middle East. US have power, and therefore elicit responses, but it is not trusted. Furthermore, the United States has a poor record of sustaining long term policies; the Cold War is the major exception.
European countries are much better at sustaining policies over the long run, but very timid in asserting themselves. Arabs distrust the United States and are less suspicious of Europe. The downside is that they do not feel obliged to respond to Europe as they do to the United States, even when the response is negative, there is a response. This means that the US and Europe may be much more effective in promoting democracy in the Middle East if they work separately toward that goal, rather than working on joint initiatives.
Western pressure for democracy sometimes lead to substantial changes like it did in transforming Meciar’s Slovakia into a democratic state in the late 1990s (Pridham 2002; Vachudova 2005) or in pushing forward the democratic transition in a more remote country like the Philippines (Adesnik ; McFaul 2006), while at other times it glances off and the authoritarian leader stay in power like in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. In Tunisia and Egypt the Western pressure brought them into a democratic transition just like what happened in Slovakia and Philippines.
The external actors somehow helped them to achieve their liberty. Moving on to the third part of this analysis, the role of civil society, military and technology in the political and social change in the two countries. Civil society can be defined as the engagement of citizens in activities as part of formal groups and associations, which exist and operate outside the government. Examples include trade unions, professional associations, church groups, student organizations and many others.
According to Larry Diamond, civil society played a crucial role in mobilizing and articulating public pressure for democratic change. A substantial combination of civil society actors can enforce the exit of authoritarian leaders. The civil society’s role was that they can impose the authoritarian leaders to withdraw their powers. They were the ones who are responsible for overthrowing a government. They are the spirit of democracy. The Military in Egypt and Tunisia played a very significant role in gaining the freedom of its people.
According to Lourd de Veyra, the reason behind the success of Egyptian Revolution was because the military withdraw its support to Hosni Mubarak’s government. The military did not hesitate in issuing arrest warrants for a president who looted public wealth. No deals were cut with foreign governments to house exiled corrupt Egyptian leaders. The military in Egypt and Tunisia cut their support in their president, unlike here in the Philippines; during the Marcos regime the military didn’t break its bond to Ferdinand Marcos.
Technology. I believed that in the first part of the analysis, I already stated how technology gave way to the political and social change in the Middle East countries. Additionally, according to Wael Ghonim, one of the Marketing Executives of Google who organizes online movement, social networkings like Facebook and Twitter must be given credit and special gratitude because it helped the voiced (revolution) of the Egyptian and Tunisian to be heard in the world.
Technologies like mobile phones, social networking sites, and television doesn’t only give us entertainment but that technological tools are being used during the Egyptian and Tunisian revolution. It helped and updated the people to know the trending topics and social issues occurring in their country. As a result, the youth activists are being motivated to engage in such coup d’etat.